July 14, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
The South Carolina State SNAP-Ed Program has published its first-ever annual impact report [pdf], sharing the ways that the federal (USDA funding/oversight) nutrition assistance program provides support to communities throughout the state. The report, which was produced by administrative (Department of Social Services) and implementing (Department of Health and Environmental Control, University of South Carolina, Lowcountry Food Bank, Clemson University) agencies, reveals how the program provides low-income individuals and households with strategies and opportunities for health and active living on a budget.
“The goal of the SNAP-Ed program is to ensure that people who live on a low income are able to meet the dietary and physical activity guidelines for Americans,” says Carrie Draper, a senior research associate in the Arnold School’s Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior and the principal investigator for UofSC. “This happens through the work of the implementing agencies, who provide direct nutrition education to people across the lifespan and work with program partners such as schools, senior centers, churches, health clinics and libraries to change policies, systems and environments to make healthy eating and active living opportunities more accessible.”
UofSC joined the project as an implementing agency to provide state-wide evaluation support – tracking program activities/outcomes and aggregate data across the agencies to provide a state-level picture of the program. This work includes leading the development of the impact report.
Over the past five years, Draper and her UofSC colleagues* have expanded their roles to include working with health clinics on nutrition support implementation (e.g., screening patients for food insecurity, making referrals to nutritious food resources), partnering with public libraries to set up farmers markets that accept SNAP, extending the FoodShare South Carolina (which Draper co-founded) produce box model to other parts of the state, and developing/sustaining local food policy councils to advance healthy food production/consumption.
With 16 percent of the state’s residents living in poverty, 40 percent of children (ages 5 to 13) classified as overweight or obese, and a No. 13 national ranking for adult obesity, SNAP-Ed is critical to the health and well-being of South Carolinians. To address these widespread challenges, SNAP-Ed activities and resources stretch across 44 of the state’s 46 counties.
In 2019, more than 25,000 low-income individuals received evidence-based education as a result of SNAP-Ed programming. This education included information and skill development in the areas of healthy eating (e.g., increased consumption of amounts/types of fruits/vegetables and water intake, decreased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages) and food resource management (e.g., increased budgeting, price comparison shopping, food lasting through the month, shopping with a list).
Nearly 40,000 people were reached by policy, systems and environmental changes that were implemented at 79 locations. Additional information included in the report provides details on the settings and populations engaged by SNAP-Ed as well as data and service/success descriptions specific to the implementing agencies.
“The report helps illustrate the important work SNAP-Ed resources are supporting around the state, including the multiple components of SNAP-Ed programming, such as direct nutrition education, changing policies, systems, and environments and cultivating and supporting multi-sector partnerships,” Draper says. “Annual reports like this help make the case for the importance of continuing to fund SNAP-Ed programming, which is something debated in Congress every year through the appropriations process and every five years when Congress reauthorizes a new Farm Bill.”
Though the annual reports will continue, they are likely to look different from the current report due to the COVID-19 crisis. Draper expects that the 2020 report will include details about the ways that SNAP-Ed agencies have adapted (e.g., online programming, food policy councils to coordinate COVID-19 response efforts related to food access and protecting frontline food workers) to the pandemic in order to continue providing resources and services to vulnerable populations while minimizing the risks.
*UofSC SNAP-Ed team members include Carrie Draper (Principal Investigator), Nick Younginer and Holly Pope (Co-investigators), Chris Paget (Evaluation Coordinator), Ashley Page (Program Coordinator), Erin Dreyer (Health Clinic Program Coordinator), and Zach Herrnstadt (Food Policy Council Program Coordinator)